Wednesday, April 20, 2011

VCU's Cunningham a candidate at Xavier, Guru says

Another Virginia coach on the move? That's the latest from Guru Mel Greenberg, whose latest post speculates VCU coach Beth Cunningham is a candidate for the head coaching vacancy at Xavier.

Xavier coach Kevin McGuff was named head coach at Washington earlier this month. McGuff was a previous assistant to Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s all-time winningest coach, Cunningham has been head coach at VCU for the last eight years.  A former WNBA player and Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer, Cunningham spent two years as an assistant with the Rams before taking over the reins at the conclusion of the 2002-03 campaign.

Greenberg notes that Cunningham's Notre Dame connections are a key. Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski is an ND alum and, as a player, Cunningham was once to Notre Dame what Skylar Diggins is now (minus the Twitter account).

Of course, none of this would matter if Cunningham wasn't also doing a bang-up job on the Rams sideline.  And last season was arguably her best, as VCU contended for the CAA title and reached the WNIT in what looked to be a transition year. With two CAA Player-of-the-Year caliber returners - Courtney Hurt and Andrea Barbour - and a strong recruiting class on the way, the Rams loom as a CAA title favorite for 2011-12.

That is, assuming Cunningham is still there to lead the way. Greenberg notes that other candidates are also in play at Xavier so nothing is close to a done deal yet. But if an offer is forthcoming, it'll be interesting to see how VCU plays it. A few weeks ago, the school reportedly managed to scrounge up 1.2 million per year over eight years to keep Shaka Smart coaching its men's hoops team. Can they find a few extra dollars to entice Cunningham to stick around, too? Then again, after a contract like Smart's, is there any money left?

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